Railway Environmental Forum 2015

Posted by Noelyn Allen on 29-Sep-2015 14:40:00
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Last week, SOCOTEC, formerly ESG, hosted its annual Railway Environmental Forum at London Underground’s Stratford Depot. Noelyn Allen, business development director, Environment & Safety Services, SOCOTEC, gives us a run-down of the day.

I have been chairing our Railway Environmental Forum for the last three years, and as its popularity grows, so does the pressure to organise an exciting programme! The forum is designed to bring together delegates from train and freight operating companies, track and infrastructure operators and rail contractors, to network and discuss current hot topics within the rail industry.

Not everyone is aware of the extent of SOCOTEC’s involvement in rail, but in fact our association with the industry dates back to 1864, when the world’s first railway laboratory was established. We continue to offer testing, inspection and compliance services specific to this sector, and our forum plays a pivotal role in providing our clients with expert advice in rail. This year we hosted attendees from a range of organisations including, Network Rail, Tube Lines, Virgin Trains, Freightliner, and Arriva Trains Wales. It was great to see both new faces and long standing supporters of the event.


We like to host each forum at an interesting location so we were very excited to secure the Stratford Market Depot as this years’ venue. The depot was constructed in the 1990s to house the larger trains running on the extended Jubilee Line of the London Underground. At 100m wide and with a 190m long roof, it is the largest depot on the network, featuring 11 maintenance bays. Our group commented on the sheer size of the space, which rises to a height of eight metres, and were envious of how light it appears compared to many of the depots they work in.

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When you consider how modern the depot is today, it’s hard to believe the historical importance of the site. Long before the depot was conceived, the site was home to Stratford Langthorne Abbey, founded in 1135. The abbey remained until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538 by Henry VIII, and was then used for industrial purposes until 1973 when archaeological investigations began. A total of 674 graves were excavated and moved to Leicestershire where they were reburied at Mount St. Bernard Abbey.

Our exclusive tour of the depot allowed the group to discover many aspects of the train maintenance regimes and an insight into the equipment used. We were also taken into the control centre where we had the opportunity to learn how the busy Jubilee line is managed. It was fascinating to see the controls and signalling equipment used each day to keep the line running at optimum levels.


Thursday’s speaker sessions featured presentations from SOCOTEC's resident experts in occupational hygiene, water treatment and asbestos. David Wright, occupational hygiene team leader, Environment & Safety Services, briefly talked us through the history of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) or ‘Dead Fingers’, before giving us an insight into how it can be measured and ultimately, prevented.


Mick Pratt, water treatment commercial director, Environment & Safety Services, entertained us with some interesting photographs and video clips along with useful guidance on the control of legionella bacteria.

Our final speaker of the day, Denis Morgan, asbestos divisional technical manager, Environment & Safety Services, gave the group an update on recent changes to asbestos legislation and how it applies to the rail industry, which sparked discussions on asbestos in soils and waste disposal.


Before lunch we broke off from the seminars to attend the Track Hazard School, a definite highlight of the day. The school is used daily by both the London Underground employees who work along the tracks and training contractors. A portion of genuine underground railway is laid out with over 50 different hazards planted on and around the tracks.



We worked in pairs to identify as many of the hazards as we could within 60 minutes, not an easy task! The hazards used have all been experienced in real life situations, and the sheer number and variety of potential dangers allowed us to really appreciate the challenge faced by those responsible for maintaining the tracks. 


All in all, it was agreed that the day was yet again a great success. It won’t be long before I’m on the hunt for next years’ venue, although I’m not sure how easy it will be to outdo last weeks’ activities!

If you’re interested in attending next years’ Railway Environmental Forum, there are a number of ways to be kept informed. If you would like to receive our regular newsletter featuring news and tips from SOCOTEC, our forum, and the rail industry, please email to subscribe. You can also join the dedicated LinkedIn group here

Topics: Built Environment Services, Asbestos In Soils, Rail, Legionella, Railway Environmental Forum

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